"This wasn't a malicious attack; it was an accident. She had fallen, she had slipped and fell, and taken in a lung full of water. It was not a malicious attack."
Baird believes the orcas recognized something was wrong.
"As soon as she became non-responsive and unconscious in the water, they kept her at the surface," Baird recalled. "You know, they couldn't conceptualize ... that the water was cold, or that she can't hold her breath for 20 minutes. I mean, these things probably don't occur to them. As best as they probably were able to rationalize the situation ... they saw she was in peril and needed help, and so they ... kept her at the surface. And that's behavior that they would exhibit with their own in the wild."
Amid a tidal wave of negative reaction from the public and its own employees, Sealand shuttered its doors the following year, and its three orcas were sold to SeaWorld in the United States.
Years later, Colin Baird would train another killer whale that, just like Tilikum, would gain international attention and profoundly impact the way people viewed killer whales in captivity.
From Tilikum to 'Free Willy'
In 1991, the same year that Keltie Byrne died, Warner Brothers Studios was looking for the star of their next film, "Free Willy."
The casting couldn't have been any more perfect.
"We were location scouting and looking for a seaquarium that would fit the scenario for our film," producer Jennie Lew Tugend said. "It had to be a pretty rundown aquarium where there was essentially one orca whale swimming by himself. And so, many other aquariums did not work. But when we got to Mexico City, we found Keiko."
Keiko, who had been captured off the coast of Iceland in 1979 when he was 3 years old, was in terrible shape. His home in Mexico was too small, too hot and unequipped to deal with a killer whale.
He was lethargic, riddled with skin lesions, had digestive problems, and was extremely underweight.
During the movie's five-week filming period, the crew took steps to improve Keiko's health.
After filming wrapped, producers felt so strongly about the orca they left languishing behind in Mexico, they added a toll-free phone number at the end of the movie with the tagline, "How far would you go for a friend?"
The movie released in 1993 and audiences fell in love with it. Children responded in torrents, sending their lunch money to help the real-life orca.
With the financial backing of Warner Brothers -- also owned by CNN's parent company Time Warner -- and broadcasting magnate Craig McCaw, a plan was developed to try to set the captive whale free.
Colin Baird first met Keiko in Iceland where the whale had finally returned after a staggeringly complicated ballet of logistics. Baird was the project team coordinator, there to teach this killer whale how to hone his killer instinct. After spending most of his life cared for by humans, Keiko needed to learn wild orca behaviors.
As Keiko's confidence grew, so did the stretches of time that he was separated from his trainers. After a particularly violent Icelandic storm, Baird lost sight of him. Outfitted with a transmitter, satellites tracked the killer whale heading in a straight line due north to Norway.
For Baird, that trek proved remarkable -- not just that Keiko made the journey, but that he appeared to have been feeding himself on his own in the wild.
"When I got into the water and measured him in Norway, he was just to the centimeter what he'd been before we had left the bay pen," he said. "That huge massive caloric output every day that he would have had to maintain to swim from Iceland to Norway, we would definitely have seen a marked reduction in his weight, and that simply wasn't the case."
In December 2003, Baird was on vacation when he noticed his voice mail was full of messages from a trainer he worked with on the Keiko project.